In a speech on the occasion of the anniversary of German unification, German federal president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned of metaphorical walls among different groups in a society. Especially after the success of the Alternative for Germany in the federal elections, the discourse about immigration for instance has to be more open, than it was in the last two years.
After the division of Germany into the Federal Republic of Germany in the west, and the German Democratic Republic (the DDR) in the east part of Germany, a call for a unification among the population became louder. To underline that will, German people were saying “We are the people” during the Monday demonstrations from 1989 until 1991. The borders were opened on the evening of November 9, 1989, when party official Günter Schabowski accidentally answered a question at a press conference about new travel regulations, which finally lead to the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990.
On the official German national holiday, the Day of German Unity, President Steinmeier has now warned all German citizens, that even though the actual, physical wall might be torn down, there are still walls in some people’s minds – the difference between rich and poor, city and countryside, or discrimination because of anger or frustration.
Even after almost thirty years of a united Germany, there are still differences between West Germany, and the Neue Länder, the former East German federal states, like for instance Saxony or Thuringia. Even though the east states have aligned pretty fast to the west part of Germany, there is no complete equality between those two parts. The economic power per capita in the former DDR states only reaches about 70 percent of West German’s average economic strength. The lack of big companies in East Germany, not a single DAX-listed company has a location there, leads to a lower fiscal capacity in this part of Germany. The federal government has strived to assimilate the pension levels by the year 2025, because there is still a difference.
Some experts argue the differences between former East and West are less important today, because both parts are dealing with similar problems of the 21st century, such as urbanization, an ageing population, or vacant commercial properties in city centers. Those are problems regardless of the region, those are problems all countries around the world have to deal with – growing together because of the same issues so to speak. A development, that could be hindered by an official delegate “for the new federal states” by German government. With keeping this special status of East Germany, the impression of an existing difference will continue to exist in the future.
In order for a real united Germany, talks about the underdeveloped East need to stop. Another stereotype about the east states is their tendency for right-wing opinions. For instance, in Saxony, the Alternative for Germany gained more votes than the Christ Democratic Union. The AfD was also second biggest party after the CDU in all neue Länder with almost 22 percent on average. In the alte Länder, the west German states the AfD only came in fourth with an average eleven percent, which is still more than the Greens or the Left party.